Illini women open tourney at home; men head to N.C.

Illini women open tourney at home; men head to N.C.

By: Alden Loury

By: Alden Loury

By: Alden Loury

By: Alden Loury

   CHAMPAIGN  The University of Illinois'' men''s and women''s teams both open NCAA basketball tournament play on Friday, but local fans will have to travel a lot farther to see the men play in person.

   The 64-team fields of both tournaments were announced Sunday, with sites also selected for early rounds of women''s play.

   The UI''s Huff Hall will be the site of first- and second-round games in the women''s Midwest Regional on Friday and Sunday. Illinois will play Drake in a first-round game on Friday at about 8:30 p.m., after Duke and DePaul meet at 6 p.m. The winners of those contests will play a second-round game on Sunday.

   On the other hand, local fans wanting to attend the UI men''s first-round battle against Southern California must plan to be in Charlotte, N.C., on Friday.

   The UI Alumni Association is sponsoring an exclusive travel package to Charlotte for first- and second-round games there.

   "We do it for any postseason events that we can," said Jane DeLuce, associate director of the association. "And this one is a little trickier because we''re flying."

   The tour includes a round-trip charter flight leaving from Champaign Friday morning and returning after the final game on Sunday.

   The package also includes two nights'' accommodations at the Embassy Suites Hotel, game tickets for all three sessions (two on Friday and one on Sunday), daily breakfast and evening receptions at the hotel, pregame pep rallies, luggage handling at the hotel and hosts and escorts from the UI Alumni Association and Conlin-Dodds Athletic Tours.

   There are also land-only and air-only packages. Prices range from $268 to $845 per person and depend on room occupancy and the package.

   Registration for the 100 available slots begins at 8 a.m. today. People may call 1-800-553-5527 for reservations, or send a facsimile of the registration form to 398-1313.

   Starting at 7 a.m. today, fans can also order tickets through the Charlotte Coliseum ticket office at (704) 357-4801. Those tickets are $75 each.

   For more information on the tour, call the association office at 333-1471 or 1-800-355-2586.

   DeLuce said chartered buses might have been used if the UI men were playing the first round closer to home.

   Meanwhile, the Illini women burst into national prominence this season by tying for the Big Ten regular-season title. Now local officials are excited about the UI''s role as a tournament host and potential tourism revenue

   "This is just another opportunity to build on that momentum," said Darrell Auterson, chief executive officer of the Champaign-Urbana Greater Economic Partnership.

   Auterson said the partnership will take a look at the economic impact over the years for other communities that have hosted early-round women''s tournament games to project the effect on the Champaign-Urbana economy.

   Rick Kubetz, vice president of the Champaign County Chamber of Commerce, said the Illini should have no trouble filling Huff, considering the UI women sold out the Assembly Hall in their home finale.

   For that reason, he''s certain hosting the games will have a positive effect on the local economy.

   "No, it''s not an economic boom, but it''s certainly a wonderful thing," Kubetz said.

   It is estimated that more than 4,000 tickets will be available for the games at Huff Hall.

   Priority seating sales for season ticket holders and Fighting Illini Scholarship Fund members will be from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday in Room 100 of the Assembly Hall or by calling 333-3470. Season-ticket holders and scholarship fund members may place an order for two all-session tickets.

   General sales of any remaining tickets will be sold on a first-come, first-served basis starting at 10 a.m. Wednesday. The tickets can be ordered in room 100 of the Assembly Hall or by calling 333-3470. There is no limit on general sales tickets.

   Tickets will cost $15 for reserved floor seating and $10 for reserved balcony seating, and will be good for all three games at Huff Hall.

   Tickets may be picked up from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday in Room 100 of the Assembly Hall. Orders not claimed by noon Friday will be available at the will call window 1 1/2 hours before game time.